What A Year 2016 Has Been In Cleveland And It All Was Made Possible By A Key Vote In A Local Election Long Ago.

This year certainly placed Cleveland on the map in a very positive way. In June, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship and more than one million people came downtown to celebrate. Then, in July, the city hosted the Republican National Convention and again received national exposure. Finally, over the past month, the Cleveland Indians surprised the sports world by almost winning the World Series in a monumental seventh game.

Those visitors to the city this past year gave rave reviews about the entertainment district surrounding the ball park and arena as well as the Jack Casino and the new Public Square downtown. Just down the road from that is Playhouse Square that hosts several events throughout the year and is the largest theater district between New York and Los Angeles.

Cleveland is a city on the rise and on the move. The city is now attracting many new residents, especially younger college educated young adults who are coming here for new opportunities in health care and technology. However, none of this would have been possible if it were not for a group of forward thinking visionaries who saw a better future for Cleveland and an important local election held in 1990. It was not without the nay-sayers and controversy.

I remember the campaign in 1990 to finance the Gateway development that built Progressive Field and the Quicken Loans Arena. That campaign was about a county wide vote to impose a "sin tax" on alcoholic beverages and tobacco. The vote was in the May primary election.

I was a staunch supporter of that issue. I believed that locating a baseball park and a sports arena would be the catalyst for a significant redevelopment of the neighborhood near the downtown center. Back in 1990 that neighborhood was a bunch of parking lots and second hand stores that was deserted after 500 PM and dangerous.

I remember the old men at the barber shop complaining about more taxes to pay millionaires and spoiled athletes who didn't care about the fans. "What is wrong with the Stadium?" I heard them say often. But then those same old men bragged about how long it had been since they went downtown.

That sentiment wasn't just confined to grumpy old men. Other people I knew said the same thing. Of course, those people lived and worked in the suburbs and never went into the city. "So what if the Indians leave? They stink and have stunk for a long time" was a familiar comment I heard.

Cleveland was all about the Browns back in the spring of 1990. As long as the Browns played, they didn't care about the Indians. The Cavaliers were playing in the Richfield Coliseum and they had a good team. So what if the old Coliseum was out in the sticks, at least it wasn't in the city.

In the spring of 1990, Cleveland's entertainment district was in the flats along the river. It was the place to go in the summer, but wasn't so hot the rest of the year. Many people then believed that the flats was the greatest thing for an entertainment district. Also, in the spring of 1990, a lot of people were also saying that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would never get built. 

In the spring of 1990, I was part of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association Speakers Bureau as well as a member of that organization. There were visionaries who saw that Cleveland could come back to life and that the Gateway development was the key. That "sin tax" levy passed, thanks mainly to more yes votes in the city than the suburbs. 

Fast forward 26 years. Who then would have believed what has happened since? The new ball park got built as well as a new arena. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame got built. Then the Indians got good. They made it to the World Series in 1995 and again in 1997. The Cleveland Indians broke attendance records with entire seasons selling out before opening day.

The Browns collapsed in the 1990 season with a 3 and 13 record. They moved out in 1995. We tore down the old stadium and built a new stadium for the Browns when they returned in 1999. Of course, they still stink. The flats died and a new, much better entertainment district was established near the ball park and arena.

But in 2016, the Cavaliers won the NBA championship and the Indians almost won the World Series at home. Cleveland hosted the Republican National convention this summer. There is a new casino where Higbee's used to be. But none of that would have been possible without some bold vision and the voters passing a tax levy.

It was bold progressive leadership that saw past the conventional thinking of the day that made all this possible. This is the face of progress. 

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

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Volume 8, Issue 12, Posted 6:54 PM, 12.04.2016